B K Baxter Biography & Facts
James Keir Baxter (29 June 1926 – 22 October 1972) was a New Zealand poet and playwright. He was also known as an activist for the preservation of Māori culture. He is one of New Zealand's most well-known and controversial literary figures. He was a prolific writer who produced numerous poems, plays and articles in his short life, and was regarded as the preeminent writer of his generation. He suffered from alcoholism until the late 1950s. He converted to Catholicism and established a controversial commune at Jerusalem, New Zealand in 1969. He was married to Jacquie Sturm, a writer in her own right.
Baxter was born in Dunedin as the second son to Archibald Baxter and Millicent Brown and grew up near Brighton, 20 km south of Dunedin city. He was named after James Keir Hardie, a founder of the British Labour Party.Baxter's father had been a conscientious objector during World War I, and both his parents were active pacifists and socialists. His mother had studied Latin, French and German at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney, the University of Sydney and Newnham College, University of Cambridge. Baxter and his brother were not baptised, although their mother read to them sometimes from the Bible.: 7 On his first day of school at Brighton Primary School (now Big Rock Primary School), Baxter burned his hand on a stove and later used this incident to represent the failure of institutional education.In 1936, when Baxter was ten, the family moved to Wanganui where he and his brother attended St Johns Hill School, and the following year they moved to England and attended Sibford School in the Cotswolds. Both schools were Quaker schools and boarding schools.: 9–10 In 1938 the family returned to New Zealand. Baxter said of his early life that he felt a gap between himself and other people, "increased considerably by the fact that I was born in New Zealand, and grew up there till I was nine, and then attended an English boarding school for a couple of years, and came back to New Zealand at thirteen, in the first flush of puberty, quite out of touch with my childhood companions and uncertain whether I was an Englishman or a New Zealander".Baxter began writing poetry at the age of seven, and he accumulated a large body of technically accomplished work both before and during his teenage years.In 1940, Baxter began attending King's High School, Dunedin, where he was bullied, because of his differences to other students (in personality, voice and background), his lack of interest in team sports and his family's pacifism.: 14–15 His older brother, Terence, was a conscientious objector like their father and was detained in military camps between 1941 and 1945 for his refusal to fight in World War II. Between 1942 and 1946, Baxter drafted around 600 poems, saying later in life that his experiences as a teenager were painful but "created a gap in which the poems were able to grow".: 15 In 1943, Baxter's final year of high school, he wrote to a friend that he was considering becoming a lawyer, but was "not decided on it": "If I should find it possible to live by writing I would gladly do so. Yet many men have thought they could, and found it an illusion.": 17
Life and career
Early literary career
In March 1944, at age seventeen, Baxter enrolled at the University of Otago.: 18 That same year, he published his first collection of poetry, Beyond the Palisade, to much critical acclaim. Allen Curnow selected six poems from the collection for 1945 collection A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923–1945, and described Baxter's poems as "a new occurrence in New Zealand: strong in impulse and confident in invention, with qualities of youth in verse which we have lacked". In this year, Baxter also won the Macmillan Brown Prize for his poem "Convoys". The prize was coincidentally named after his Scottish maternal grandfather, John Macmillan Brown.Baxter's work during this time was, as with his contemporary compatriots, most notably the experimental novelist Janet Frame, largely influenced by the modernist works of Dylan Thomas. He was a member of the so-called "Wellington Group" of writers that also included Louis Johnson, W.H. Oliver and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell. Baxter typically wrote short lyrical poems or cycles of the same rather than longer poems.
After his eighteenth birthday on 29 June 1944, like his father and brother, Baxter registered as a conscientious objector, citing "religious and humanitarian" grounds. The authorities did not pursue him however due to the late stage of the war.: 20 Baxter failed to complete his course work at the University of Otago due to increasing alcoholism, and was forced to take a range of odd jobs from 1945–7. He fictionalised these experiences in his only novel Horse, published posthumously in 1985. It was during this time that he had his first significant relationship, with a young medical student, but the relationship ended due to his alcoholism. He wrote the collection of poems Cold Spring about this early failed relationship, but it was not published until after his death in 1996.: 24 In 1947 he met Jacquie Sturm, a young Māori student, who would later become his wife.In late 1947, Baxter moved to Christchurch where he continued working odd jobs. Although he did not enrol at the University of Canterbury he became the literary editor of its student magazine, Canta, and attended some lectures.: 35 His behaviour could be erratic due to his alcoholism. His second collection, Blow, Wind of Fruitfulness was published in 1948, and its themes included the New Zealand landscape and solitude. Curnow, in a review, described Baxter as "the most original of New Zealand poets now living".
Marriage and later career
In 1948 Baxter married Jacquie Sturm at St John's Cathedral, Napier, and his developing interest in Christianity culminated in his joining the Anglican church and being baptised during that same year. They moved to Wellington and in February 1951 Baxter enrolled at Wellington Teachers' College. In 1952 Baxter's poems were published in a collaborative volume, Poems Unpleasant, alongside poems from Louis Johnson and Anton Vogt. He completed his teaching course in December 1952, and subsequently published his third major collection of poems, The Fallen House. In 1954 he was appointed assistant master at Epuni School, Lower Hutt, and it was here that he wrote a series of children's poems published later as The Tree House, and Other Poems for Children (1974).Baxter and his wife had a daughter, Hilary, in 1949, and a son, John, in 1952.In late 1954, Baxter joined Alcoholics Anonymous, successfully achieving sobriety, and in 1955, he finally graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University College. He had also received a substantial inheritance from a great-aunt in 1955 and was able to purchase a house for the family in Ngaio, Wellington.: 45 He left Epuni School early in 195.... Discover the B K Baxter popular books. Find the top 100 most popular B K Baxter books.